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Speech by Ambassador Zou Xiaoli at the Seminar on China-Greece Cultural Industry Cooperation

Honorable Mr. Elefterios Kretsos, Secretary General for Information and Communication,

Respected Mr. Zhang Bin, President of China Cultural Industry Association,

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

Good afternoon! I would like to welcome you all to my Embassy for the Seminar on China-Greece Cultural Industry Cooperation. While the temperature is exceedingly high in Athens the last few days, the enthusiasm of yours participating in the seminar is even higher. We are all here today among important figures and elites from various sectors, that played in their own way a significant role in cultural exchanges between the two countries. It is so touching that some of you have put off your vacation, and some others have come a long way to Athens. I would like to express my special thanks to Mr. Mercuris, President of the Horizon Cultural Foundation. In the long course of over half a century, he has made an outstanding contribution to friendship and exchanges between the two peoples of the two countries. He is already in the advanced age of 91. I would like to pay him a great deal of respect. The delegation of the China Cultural Industry Association led by Mr. Zhang Bin has just arrived in Athens this morning. Their arrival provides a valuable opportunity for holding today’s event. Cooperation in cultural industries is so important not only for our two countries, but also for the future of the whole world. I look forward to sparks of wisdom during today’s exchanges, which will light up the future road of cooperation in cultural industries between our two countries.

Both China and Greece created splendid ancient civilizations and promoted cultural integration between the East and the West, leaving far-reaching impact on the course of human development. In the 21st century of deepening economic globalization and the rapid development of modern information technology, the distance between people and countries has markedly shortened, leaving us in a global village. However, estrangement, conflict, war and poverty have not disappeared. Dialogues, exchanges, and cooperation are called upon for realizing the dream of lasting peace and sustainable development. In particular, dialogues between civilizations and cultural exchanges are deemed irreplaceable. In other words, for China and Greece, the main origins of Eastern and Western civilizations, this may denote new opportunities, but also presents tremendous challenges.

In today’s world, a country’s cultural influence is closely related to the development of its cultural industry. In recent years, with ever deepening reforms and wider opening-up of the cultural sector, rapid development of IT industry and the media industry, and strong growth in demand in the domestic cultural market, the cultural industry of China has enjoyed great development, as demonstrated in the following figures: In 2014, China produced over 10,000 episodes of TV series, ranking top in the world; It produced over 600 movies, just behind the US and India. The number of Internet users in China will soon exceed 700 million, almost double that of Japan and the US combined. China publishes 450,000 varieties of books every year, surpassing the US to become the biggest publishing country in the world. In 2014, 7851 exhibitions were held nationwide, which provided 19.6 million social posts, with a direct output of above 6 million US dollars. The development of the cultural industry in leaps and bounds has created new highlights in the Chinese economy, facilitated economic restructuring, brought changes in the lives and consumption habits of the people, and promoted the “going global” of Chinese cultural products.

However, honestly speaking, Chinese cultural products, in terms of their quantity and influence, still have a long way to go to match the historical position of the Chinese culture and the strength of the Chinese economy. We urgently need to enhance international exchanges and cooperation in cultural product design, production, marketing, service and the cultivation of relevant professionals.

Greece boasts profound cultural foundation, rich tourism resources, a large number of professionals in the cultural sector, and highly-international marketing channels, in particular, the principles of cultural inclusiveness and pluralism which Greece holds dear, have made Greece a natural friend and strategic partner for China to have cultural exchanges and industry cooperation among European countries. The idea and operational model of cultural Olympics initiated by the 2004 Athens Olympics gave inspirations to the Beijing Olympics that followed. In 2010, China participated in the Thessaloniki International Book Fair as the guest of honor, during which it presented a series of Greek classics in Chinese including “Odyssey”, “Aesop’s Fables”, “Complete Works of Ancient Greek Tragedies”, and “Homeric Epic”. Last year, the Greek movie “Little England” caused a sensation at the Shanghai International Film Festival by winning three awards - best picture, best director, and best actress. This year China attended for the first time the Posidonia Sea Tourism Forum and the “European Maritime Day” hosted by the City of Piraeus, thus having a zero-distance contact with European maritime culture.

I have two pieces of good news to share with you. First, this Monday, a delegation of the State Administration of Press Publication, Radio, Film, and Television of the PRC visiting Greece held talks with their counterparts in the Secretariat General of Information and Communication. They also visited the national tv channel ERT, where the two sides reached important consensus on the exchange of cultural products, and jointly making films and TV programs. Secondly, on the 19th of this month, the China Philharmonic Orchestra will give its first performance at the ancient Theater of Herodes Atticus at the foot of Acropolis during its tour in Greece.

In the private sector, the exchanges and trade in art works has just got started. In 2012, the 23 modern works of sculpture by renowned Greek artist George Stis were put on exhibition in the Shaanxi Museum of Fine Arts and were warmly received. Last year the Chinese Art Institute of Painting and Calligraphy organized an expedition trip to Greece and a number of Chinese painters and art collectors, had interactions with the art community of Greece. I have visited several private Greek museums, which impressed me with the quantity and the quality of their Chinese collections.

The fact that the global financial crisis and the Greek sovereign debt crisis have brought our two countries closer, is clearly shown not only in trade and investment, but also in cultural exchanges and friendly feelings between the two peoples. I have said to the Chinese media many times that China is indebted to Greece. In August last year, despite its tight budget, the Greek navy sent a vessel to help evacuate 79 Chinese citizens from warzones in Libya. They took very good care of the Chinese citizens during over 20 hours on the rough sea without charging a penny, which demonstrated the great internationalist and humanitarian sentiments of the Greek people as well as their profound friendship towards the Chinese people. The Chinese people, who have also emerged stronger from various hardships, have the firm belief that Greece will get more understanding and support from the international community, bravely carry out reforms, and walk out of the crisis to continue to play an important role for safeguarding peace and development in the region and in the world.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

This year marks the year of maritime cooperation between China and Greece, the first time that a cooperation year is themed on the sea between China and a foreign country. According to incomplete statistics, over the past half a year, the two sides have carried out 25 exchange and cooperation projects covering ports, sea-rail transport, shipbuilding, sea tourism, underwater archaeology, maritime research, maritime culture, maritime law, disaster prevention and relief, pairing up of island cities, and military exchanges, etc., many of which were unprecedented. China-Greece maritime cooperation has come to the forefront of China-Europe cooperation and has good demonstration effect. The reason I have raised this example is that I believe as long as we can combine the development strategies and strength of each other, and make concerted efforts to fight the odds in the spirit of equality and mutual benefit, we will change “dangers” into “opportunities”, make breakthroughs, bring real benefits to the two countries and two peoples, and push China-Greece relations to higher levels. I am convinced that in addition to maritime cooperation, cooperation in cultural industries can become as well another area in which a lot can be done. To this end, I would like to put forward the following proposals:

First of all, the government should play a guiding and coordinating role. Governments of the two countries should pay great attention to cultural industry cooperation from an overall and strategic perspective, and create favorable environment and conditions for it. First, the two sides should deepen reforms in cultural industries and enhance experience sharing to increase mutual understanding and trust. Second, cultural industry cooperation should be incorporated as priority areas in the three-year cooperation plan between the two countries. Third, exchanges and cooperation in the area of public cultural services should be expanded to enable our two countries’ broadcasting companies, public libraries, museums, and play houses to provide cultural products that have more and better promotion of each other’s country.

Secondly, multi-dimensional and multi-layered mechanisms for exchanges and cooperation should be built up. On the one hand, the two societies should be fully motivated to participate in cultural exchanges to increase their impact. On the other hand, cultural industry cooperation should proceed in an orderly, efficient, and sustainable way to reinforce each other’s strength. In this regard, cultural organizations and trade associations can play an important role, for which the China Cultural Industry Association led by Mr. Zhang has already taken important step. I sincerely hope that the visit of Mr. Zhang’s association and the seminar today will build a mechanism for long-term exchanges and cooperation between culture-related government agencies, research institutes, and social elites of the two sides to jointly make cultural industries of the two countries bigger and stronger.

Thirdly, we should Work on the two big topics of maritime- and Olympics-related cultural industry cooperation. The East Mediterranean with Greece at its center, is the cradle of European and maritime civilizations. The Chinese nation has also created a splendid maritime culture in the long course of history. The ocean is a treasure house for cultural exchanges and industrial cooperation between our two countries. We should make good use of the China-Greece Maritime Cooperation Year to deepen cooperation in sea tourism and underwater archaeology, explore exchanges in ocean-related science popularization, art design, maritime sports culture, island folk culture, maritime military culture, etc. so as to provide strong intellectual and spiritual support for maritime cooperation between the two countries.

Greece is the birth place of the Olympic Games, creating a profound Olympics culture that is admired worldwide. On July 31st, Beijing and Zhangjiakou City won the bid for hosting the 2022 Winter Olympics, which provides an important opportunity for China to deepen Olympics-related cooperation with Greece. Cultural industries of the two countries should lose no time in taking actions to provide cultural products of the Olympics that have the feature of the time sand unique national styles.

Fourthly, we should aim at wider international cooperation. Human cultures have great diversity. Hence, the great development and prosperity of cultural industries can only be based on extensive international cooperation, for which China and Greece have the obligation and the conditions to play a leading role. Foreign Minister Kotzias has a brainchild, the alliance of ancient civilizations. I think such an alliance should start from cultural exchanges and cultural industry cooperation so as to promote cultural and economic revitalization of ancient civilizations, uplift the international status and influence of countries of ancient civilizations, and to jointly build a homeland that features peace, harmony, cooperation, and shared prosperity.

Ladies and gentlemen, dear friends,

China has always viewed and developed its relations with Greece from a long-term and strategic perspective and sets great store by the unique role that Greece can play in our implementation of the strategic idea of “One Belt One Road”. Greece is not only a gateway for the flow of goods and capital between China and Europe, but also a bridge of cultural exchanges between China and Europe, and between the East and the West. Without culture, the economy will lose its soul, while cultural development needs to be propped up by the economy. Cultural industry cooperation combines cultural exchanges with economic cooperation, which will help realize our complementarities and reinforce our strength, hence its great significance for the revitalization of our two countries and for peace and development in the world. The Chinese Embassy in the Hellenic Republic has set up a special task force, for which I am the leader, which will work with the China Cultural Industry Association as well as the Greek government and people of various sectors to promote tangible results in cultural industry cooperation and to make contribution to deepening of the comprehensive strategic partnership between our two countries.

Thank you all!

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